Molasses, a by-product of the manufacture of raw sugar from sugar cane, is used as the source of Rum. It takes approximately 1½ gallons of molasses to produce 1 proof gallon of rum. (A British proof gallon is equivalent to a liquid gallon which contains 57% alcohol and 43% water.)
is the process by which sugar is converted into ethyl alcohol (C2H5OH) and carbon dioxide (CO2) by the action of yeast. The liquid that remains after the fermentation process is completed is known as "dead wash"
The properties of yeast and its ability to convert sugar into alcohol have been known since biblical times.
Molasses in its raw state contains approximately 55% sugar. In preparation for the fermentation process the molasses is mixed with water to reduce the sugar content to 15% and then pasteurised. This mixture is known as the "live wash."
The fermentation process takes approximately 30 hours to complete during which time the yeast in the "live wash" uses up the sugar to produce alcohol and carbon dioxide. The liquid that is left at the end of the fermentation process is known as the "dead wash." This "dead wash" is what is used for distillation.
is the process by which alcohol in the "dead wash" is separated from water. There are two methods of distillation in use at our estates:-
This involves the use of three columns which have a source of steam at their base. The first column is used for stripping the weak solution of alcohol from the wash and the other two are used to purify and concentrate the alcoholic vapours.
The columns consist of trays with perforations and downpipes that allow the liquid to flow from one tray to the next going down the column. The stem rises through the perforations and drives the alcohol vapours up the columns. These vapours condense on the top trays and the liquid is drawn off the trays and cooled before going to the product tanks. The character of the product depends on how high up the column the condensate is drawn off.
The column still can therefore produce varying products from light rum to the purest alcohol
Pot Still Distillation is the traditional method of distillation that has been handed down since the inception of rum-making in Jamaica. Pot Still Distillation involves the use of a copper or copper-lined kettle which holds the "dead wash," a high wine retort and a low wine retort.
Steam is applied to the kettle and, after approximately one hour, the alcohol begins to evaporate. The vapour, which contains about 7% alcohol and 93% water, is passed through the low wine retort which contains a mixture (low wine) which is made up of 50% alcohol and 50% water. During the passage of the vapour through the low wine retort some of the water in the vapour condenses, and this in turn vaporises the alcohol in the low wine. Thus the vapour leaving the low wine retort is richer in alcohol than the vapour that entered it.
The vapour is then passed through the high wine retort which contains a liquid which is 75% alcohol and 25% water. The vapour is once again enriched with the alcohol from the high wine, and the vapour that leaves the high wine retort is 85% alcohol by volume. This vapour is collected and condensed, and the distillate is called rum.
The distillation process also produces vapours that contain less then 85% alcohol. These vapours are also collected and condensed and used as the high and low wines for future distillations.
The cooperage, the area where the ageing barrels are assembled, is filled with the sounds of the coopers hammering the barrel hoops into place – a sound that is not unlike the old-time Jamaican spiritual music. Coopering is an art and the cooper is a skilled artisan who must first serve an apprenticeship of three years before qualifying in the trade. Coopering as a trade is fast disappearing as spirit manufacturers switch to fully automated cooperages., however some rum producers keeping with its commitment to maintaining highly specialised operations throughout the rum making process, and continues to hand-assemble the barrels in which rums are aged.
Rum is a spirit that improves with age. Although exactly what takes place during the ageing process remains one of nature’s secrets, it is known that rum ages best in 40 gallon oak barrels that have been charred on the inside, and that nature does not allow for short cuts in the ageing process.
The permeability of the oak allows air to pass through, and this mellows the rum. The oak also gives the rum its warm, golden colour. The warehouses where rums are aged are always cool and pleasant, or "rum conditioned," which is as a result of the rum vapours passing through the pores of the barrel.
This evaporation is known as the "angels share" and in temperate climates this accounts for a loss of approximately 2% of the contents of a barrel per year. In Jamaica evaporation can exceed 6% per year, and the Appleton Estate employees say that the angels claim a larger share of the rum aged on the estate because the angels know where the best rum comes from!
The final secret of an exceptional rum is blending, the last step of the rum-making process. Blending is an art form, and the Master Blender uses many different types and styles of rum to create a brand in much the same way that an artist uses different colours to create a painting.
Using his expertise, the Master Blender selects the barrels of rums that will be used in a particular blend based on the age, type and style of rum that it contains. These different rums are then hand-blended by the Master Blender and his team, and the liquid then placed in oak vats where they undergo a "marrying" process. The "marrying" process allows the different rums to fuse together, and it also has a smoothing or toning effect on the rum. After the rum blend has been allowed to "marry," it is run into bottling vats and reduced to bottling strength by the addition of pure water. From the bottling vats the rum is passed through filters and polishers and then sent to the fully-automated bottling line, where it is bottled and packaged.